Mariah Blake

Mariah Blake

Senior Reporter

Mariah Blake is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. She has also written for The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, The Nation, The New Republic, the Washington Monthly, and the Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. Email her at mblake [at] motherjones [dot] com or follow her on Twitter.

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New Jersey's Largest Paper on Christie Endorsement: "We Blew This One"

| Mon Feb. 10, 2014 10:55 AM EST
Christie speaks to reporters about superstorm Sandy recovery funds.

Last fall, New Jersey’s largest paper, the Newark Star-Ledger, endorsed Gov. Chris Christie for reelection. Parts of its admittedly reluctant endorsement read more like a takedown. For instance:

The property tax burden has grown sharply on his watch. He is hostile to low-income families, raising their tax burden and sabotaging efforts to build affordable housing. He’s been a catastrophe on the environment….The governor’s claim to have fixed the state’s budget is fraudulent. New Jersey’s credit rating has dropped during his term, reflecting Wall Street’s judgment that he has dug the hole even deeper.

The peculiar statement left many people scratching their heads (including Rachel Maddow, who mocked it at length on her MSNBC show). Why, they wondered, would the paper endorse a candidate it held in such low esteem? Now, following the Christie administration's George Washington Bridge scandal and other damning accusations, the paper is backing away from its choice. Editorial page editor Tom Moran and the editorial board admitted in Sunday's Star-Ledger that they made a mistake by endorsing Christie. In their words:

An endorsement is not a love embrace. It is a choice between two flawed human beings. And the winner is often the less bad option.

But yes, we blew this one…We knew Christie was a bully. But we didn’t know his crew was crazy enough to put people’s lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn’t know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn’t know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

Interestingly, despite his flaws, the authors won't rule out endorsing him again one day.

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Koch-Tied Groups Funded GOP Effort to Mess With Electoral College Rules

| Fri Jan. 31, 2014 8:26 AM EST

A Koch brothers mask at a 2013 protest.

Last election season, a shadowy nonprofit pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign to change how electoral votes are counted. The group didn't disclose who was funding its efforts—a fact that Mother Jones highlighted in a story titled "Who's Paying for the GOP's Plan to Hijack the 2012 Election?" But now, thanks to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan government watchdog, it's clear that organizations with ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch footed at least some of the bill.

Each state and the District of Columbia has a certain number of electoral votes, based on their population, and they get to decide for themselves how those votes should be allotted. Currently, every state except Maine and Nebraska gives all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote. But in 2011, GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin introduced bills that would divide electoral votes among candidates based on how many congressional districts they won. Because Republicans drew the boundaries of the districts in those states, this scheme would be almost certain to hand Republican presidential candidates the majority of their electoral votes—even if more voters cast ballots for Democrats. (Read more about how the plan would work here.) Presuming the race is close enough, this could decide the nationwide outcome.

In the case of Pennsylvania, a mysterious nonprofit called All Votes Matter spent large sums lobbying for these changes. Local officials wondered about its funding sources. "They raised an awful lot of money very quickly—$300,000 in just a few days," Democratic Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach told Mother Jones at the time. "We're all curious where that level of funding comes from." But All Votes Matter didn't disclose its donors, nor did it have to. The group is organized as a 501(c)4 "social welfare" nonprofit, which means that it can spend money on politics while keeping its donors secret. (Such groups are not supposed to spend more than half of their budget on political causes, but IRS enforcement is slack.) Thus the public knew little about the agendas behind this effort to upend the mechanics of presidential elections.

WATCH: Senate Candidate Claims IRS is Training "Brown Shirts" to Enforce Obamacare Using Assault Weapons

| Fri Jan. 17, 2014 10:58 AM EST

This election season, as in 2012, many sitting Republicans face challenges from tea party candidates, who aren't afraid to tout conspiracy theories or say brash things about women's bodies. One GOP Senate challenger, vying against veteran Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), has gone as far as claiming that the IRS is training an army of "Brown Shirts" to enforce Obamacare—with assault weapons no less.

South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright argued in a speech last August that we should "get rid of that IRS." (See the video above). He also discussed comments from US Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, who toured a federal law enforcement facility last spring and reported seeing IRS agents training with the semi-automatic AR-15 rifles. Bright added:

If that’s true…and they're doing assault-weapon training, the Brown Shirts are next because that's the enforcement for Obamacare, is the IRS. If you don't have an IRS, you don't have Obamacare. That's the mechanism that's controlling our lives for far too long.

In fact, the armed agents Duncan saw probably belonged to a special criminal investigation division, which sometimes goes after drug traffickers and money launderers. At the time, according to Politico, Duncan questioned whether "that level of firepower is appropriate when they could coordinate operations with other agencies, like the FBI, especially in a time of austerity." That's a far cry from likening IRS agents to Nazi storm troopers.

WATCH: George Zimmerman's Girlfriend Reveals Disturbing New Details in Police Video

| Fri Jan. 3, 2014 10:27 AM EST

Last November, after a heated domestic dispute and a frantic call to 911, George Zimmerman's girlfriend told police that he had threatened her with a shotgun. The allegations were eerily similar to those lodged by Zimmerman's ex-wife following his acquittal on charges of murdering unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, and they seemed to signal a pattern of uncontrolled violence.

Zimmerman's girlfriend, 27-year-old Samantha Scheibe, later recanted the accusations, saying in a sworn statement that she was "intimidated" during police questioning and believed investigators had "misinterpreted" her words. But a recently released video of Scheibe's police interview casts doubt on her disavowal. It also adds credibility and violent new detail to Scheibe's original account.

The officer who questioned Scheibe, Stephen LaGuardia of the Seminole County Sheriff's office, did not come across as intimidating. And Scheibe's description of events was detailed and vivid—not the kind of thing most people concoct on the fly. Having broken off the relationship, Scheibe said she told Zimmerman to leave her house. He began packing his belongings, including his AR-15 assault rifle. As he removed the clip and shoved it in his rifle bag, a bullet fell on the floor. Zimmerman then grabbed and cocked his shotgun, apparently so that there was a shell in the chamber, and stuffed it in the rifle bag, too.

Fri Apr. 25, 2014 12:42 PM EDT